Doctors find new way to perform aortic valve surgery

November 21, 2011 4:52:28 PM PST
Some good news for people facing surgery to replace their aortic valve: there's a brand new way to get a new valve and avoid the surgery. The new "non-surgical" way to replace your aortic valve has just been performed for the first time in Houston.

There's a little ring that is actually a manmade heart valve, and it's keeping 88-year-old Martha Frazier alive. The best part is that she never had to have surgery.

UTHealth cardiologist Dr. Colin Barker put the valve into Frazier's aorta, not in a big heart surgery that makes you feel filleted, but through a catheter like this that was run up from her leg.

The valve goes over a balloon on the catheter.

"Then we inflate the balloon, and by inflating the balloon, that pushes the valve against the old valve and that lets it adhere there permanently; then we deflate the balloon and take the catheter out," Dr. Barker said.

It takes 20 seconds to crush the old aortic valve and drop in the new valve, which begins working immediately. And the recovery time is much shorter than standard valve surgery.

"Usually five to seven days is about the recovery time, mostly from the heart surgery, the chest incision. For this, we expect people to going home in 48 hours," Dr. Barker said.

The big downside is that they don't know if it will last as long as surgical valves.

"Surgical valves still clearly can last 10 to 20 years," Dr. Barker said.

The FDA approved this new non-surgical aortic valve about two weeks ago. But it's still too big for some people, so UTHealth cardiologists at Memorial Hermann are doing a study on a new even smaller catheter. That study is open to people who are facing surgery to replace their aortic valve and who want to avoid the big surgery.

To talk to doctors about getting the new FDA non-surgical aortic valve replacement and compare it to the newer, not-yet-approved smaller valve catheter, call 713-704-TAVR(8287).

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